An end to the madness may soon be forthcoming.
As the number of Hack-a-Player instances continues on pace to nearly triple last year’s output, NBA commissioner Adam Silver appears to be moving closer and closer toward the brink of change.
After remaining on the fence regarding the topic of intentional away-from-the-ball fouls during his visit to Detroit over two weeks ago, his remarks were considerably more pointed during a recent interview with USA Today Sports’ NBA A to Z podcast.
“I’m increasingly of the view that we will be looking to make some sort of change in that rule this summer,” Silver revealed to hosts Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt.
“Even for those who had not wanted to make the change, we’re being forced to that position just based on these sophisticated coaches understandably using every tactic available to them,” Silver said. “It’s just not the way we want to see the game played.”
Zillgit’s article on Silver’s remarks made note of just how quickly the Hack-a-Player strategy appears to be morphing and spreading. Consider:
- The number of intentional fouls committed throughout the entire 2014-15 season: 164. This year’s total is already closing in on 300 and we haven’t even hit the All-Star break.
- The Pistons’ Andre Drummond, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, and Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets account for 69% of all Hack-a-Player fouls.
- According to ESPN’s Kevin Shelton, as of late January, 27 different players have been targeted for intentional away-from-the-ball fouls this season.
Still, Silver has remained cognizant of the make-your-free-throwists, who believe the current ruling should remain in place as a means of punishing players who cannot make free throws at a high clip. But on the other hand, as the former head of NBA Entertainment, he’s hyper-sensitive toward the reception of the league’s product in the eyes of the consumer.
“Again, as I travel around the league, there’s that one school of thought ‘Guys have got to make their free throws,’ ” Silver said. “But then at the end of the day, we are an entertainment property, and it’s clear that when you’re in the arena, that fans are looking at me, shrugging their shoulders with that look saying, ‘Aren’t you going to do something about this?’ ”
The Pistons’ Drummond, a career 38 percent shooter from the line, has been the frequent target of intentional away-from-the-ball fouls through his team’s 51 games this season. Against the Rockets, he was fouled five times in nine seconds, the beginning of an extreme Hack-a-Dre strategy that ultimately yielded 36 free throw attempts, the second most in NBA history.
Recently, teams have taken things one step further, jumping on Drummond’s back while the opposition attempts free throws, committing an intentional foul and putting Drummond back on the line before either team can make a play on the ball. Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel committed such a play during a 13-point loss to the Pistons on Jan 27.
“Clearly that’s not a natural basketball move,” Silver said. “That’s something that, in my view, we need to address quickly because ultimately there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our players. Again, I think that’s an accident waiting to happen with guys jumping on each other’s shoulders just trying to attract officials’ attention to call a foul.”
Silver’s consideration of a natural basketball move taps into the crux of the debate. While few would argue that purposely piggy backing an opposing center is a natural basketball move, the same could be said for the away-from-the-play hugging fouls that have plagued the game with increasing regularity.
The solution to the league’s current intentional foul fest may be surprisingly simple. The D-League currently operates with a rule that allows a team to select any player to shoot one free throw following an intentional away from the ball foul. That team then retains possession along the sideline (basically similar to the outcome for a technical foul).
The options for curtailing purposeful away-from-the-ball fouls are there. And as more and more players become random foul targets, it appears Adam Silver may have finally had enough.